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Friday, October 1, 2010

Flood Victims Return Home to Debris, No Food, No Water

Islamic Relief USA’s VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan returns to Pakistan for the second time since severe flooding in late July marginalized millions of people and spread hunger, disease and homelessness throughout the country. Read about his latest journey below and follow his live updates via Twitter: @AnwarKhan_IRUSA.

During our days here, the Islamic Relief USA team and I have been following the trail of flood devastation through Pakistan from north to south. Thatta District in southern Sindh was devastated by the floods. The district of 300,000 was evacuated days before the floods was about to hit the area, only to have another 200,000 people pour in from remote villages after flooding began.

The evacuees from the district were sent to camps and higher grounds. Some of the camps were located inside schools, and after Eid-al-Fitr, those taking shelter in the schools were told to leave as the new school year was about to begin.

On Tuesday, we left Karachi early in the morning and, nearly two hours later, approached the main road outside Thatta. We saw many small camps all next to each other on the main road, with administering organizations’ banners and flags waving about, but as we continued further on down the road, the camps ceased.

For miles we saw flooded fields, washed out roads, and destroyed bridges. There were not many buildings; those we did see were destroyed. There were a few makeshift tents near the destroyed buildings. As people were returning home from the camps, many found they had no home to return to. All that was left was debris and destruction. Slowly they will have to rebuild their homes and lives.

From Bad to Worse

During the drive from Thatta to Jhatti village, which was one of the most devastated villages in the district, we saw roads being rebuilt by hand as we were traveling on them. We were forced to drive in flooded areas while construction as ensuing and at one point one of our accompanying trucks got stuck in a ditch, requiring six people to free it. From that point onwards, someone had to walk in front of the cars in waist-high contaminated water to guide us. We were very grateful to the passerby who assisted us.

There was a large semi-truck packed with aid that refused to go in the water. It was on a one-way road, and for hours it had blocked all traffic on the road. Finally the other cars had to drive off the road to pass it by. At least one of the cars had to be abandoned.

We finally arrived at our destination to see a large crowd waiting to get registered to receive aid. Many of the people were told to go home after Eid-al-Fitr. Since their return 10 days ago, they have not received clean water, food, or medicine. In the afternoon heat you could sense the desperation. Children are thirsty and are drinking contaminated water. They are getting sick and have no money for medicine. If they do not receive aid, it is only a matter of time before they start dying.

A teenage boy died the day before while crossing the flooded water to visit his home. This is the third village on this trip that I have visited where a child has died a few days before my arrival. It has been two months since the emergency was declared in Pakistan, yet children are still dying nearly every day.

One of the villagers showed me his hands, which were ravaged with scabies. An elderly woman was barely able to talk about her struggle just to survive.
We were asked to visit homes that were cut off. We had to go knee high in water to get to the first home. These homes are still submerged in water and will collapse.

Islamic Relief has done a needs-assessment and will be helping this area. Tents have arrived from the Islamic Relief warehouse in Dubai, and we are waiting for them to clear customs. Food and non-food supplies will be purchased in Karachi. The aid will be sent in large trucks to an IR warehouse in Thatta and then will be transported in small trucks to villages. Once the trucks arrive distribution will be done to those who have registered. As we are winding down the emergency distribution in the north and starting the rehabilitation phase, we are preparing for emergency distribution in the south. No aid has reached the area we have visited. I plan to return in a few days to assist and monitor the distribution.

That night we just about made our flight to Islamabad. Tomorrow we will visit orphans we have been supporting for years.

Please don’t forget the people of Pakistan in their time of need. They need our help now more than ever. Donate today. Act now to save lives.
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